National Association of Attorneys General

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NAAG Offers Its Priority Issues for Federal Government

Blair Tinkle, General Counsel to the Association and Congressional Liaison

With the Obama administration and the 111th Congress now underway, state Attorneys General are poised to present a clear agenda for state-federal work and cooperation. NAAG has given an Interim Briefing Paper to the Obama administration and Congress outlining the priority issues of the states’ chief legal officials. As an initial matter, NAAG is asking the new president and Congress to resist federal preemption of state laws, particularly in the enforcement of state banking and mortgage foreclosure laws.

The briefing paper states that, â?œIn the current, failing economy, with housing prices plunging, and the number of foreclosures soaring, it is critical that the state Attorneys General continue to be the ‘56 cops on the beat’ and be given the necessary regulatory authority to impose appropriate standards on lending institutions.” The brief was the focus of a series of meetings between state Attorneys General and the Obama Transition Team in December 2008.

NAAG would like increased cooperation and coordination among local, state, and federal agencies. One solution is to make the Executive Working Group on Prosecutorial Relations (EWG) a greater priority and give it an enhanced and central role in the sharing of information between law enforcement agencies. EWG consists of representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice, National District Attorneys Association and NAAG. In an effort to build and strengthen relationships between state and federal law enforcement agencies, it would also be beneficial to engage more frequently in employee-swapping programs among the various agencies.

The Association is calling for federal funding of the Edward Byrne Justice Assistance Grants (Byrne/JAG) to be restored, after a 67 percent cut. These grants to states fund multi-jurisdictional drug enforcement, treatment interventions, police training, technology improvements, crime prevention programs, and crime victims’ assistance programs. The funding cut is forcing states to lay off police and prosecutors and shut down multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces.

Congress included nearly $3 billion for the Byrne/JAG grant program and other law enforcement initiatives in the recently passed economic stimulus package. An additional $1 billion is included for the Community Oriented Policy Services Office (COPS) hiring grant program. COPS offer grants to help law enforcement agencies hire more community policing officers, acquire new technologies and equipment, and promote innovative approaches to solving crime. At press time, President Obama was to sign the stimulus bill into law.

The NAAG briefing paper also addressed priorities pertaining to the environment, consumer protection, antitrust, cybercrime, world trade, Medicaid fraud and fighting Mexican drug cartels.

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